To repeat the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury: “But again ”˜pastoral response’ has been interpreted very differently and there are those [”¦] who would say: ”˜Well, pastoral response means rites of blessing’, and I’m not very happy about that.” The Archbishop is not alone in his feelings. But the bishops of the Diocese of Toronto have decided to pour more fuel upon the smoldering flames of that unhappiness.
Interestingly, the Toronto Guidelines tell us that parishes can go forward with requesting to be designated as places where same-sex blessings can be performed only when some kind of “consensus” within it has been found on the matter. This is further explained as follows: “Consensus is not total agreement; however, every effort should be made to reach a decision where everyone feels heard and is willing to live with the wider body’s decision.” This is explicitly qualified in this manner: “The way forward should not be achieved or prevented by a few taking an opposing view to the vast majority”.
An obvious question arises in the face of this definition of consensus and its requirements: is there in fact a “consensus” of this kind in the Diocese of Toronto around the motives, meaning, and substance of the new Guidelines? The process for putting the Guidelines together precluded such a consensus, and the implementation of the Guidelines moves forward without it. How should those within, but also those outside of the diocese interpret this failure to discern consensus? For we should also ask another and related question: where do the bishops of the Diocese of Toronto stand vis a vis the “consensus” of the Communion’s bishops and her “consultative organs”, a consensus that in fact is equivalent in this case to a unanimity? Do they stand with the “vast majority”? Or do they stand with “a very few taking an opposing view” that is thereby seeking to “prevent” a “way forward” towards the healing of the Communion? Does this matter to them?